Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Growing up in St. Louis, the Gateway Arch is a constant.  This Icon of the city where I live is displayed on logos for city services, car dealerships, morning newscasts and beyond.  More than a monument, the St. Louis Arch is an identity; underscoring our centralized location on the map, and our history as a center of commerce. It so happens that this date, 10/28/15 is the 50th anniversary of its completion, the day that the final section was eased into place with a margin of error of only centimeters.  What an amazing feat to create this symbol of strength and progress.

Today is another anniversary as well; one smaller in stature but no less meaningful to me.  On this date 17 years ago, I met with a surgeon to receive the diagnosis of breast cancer in my right breast.  Although I could not have known it at the time, that day laid the groundwork for a new identity; a gateway to a different life than the one I’d been living.  You might not have noticed if you’d been looking at me from the outside, although you would have clearly seen the hair-loss and the fatigue of the next months to years.  You might have heard that I had extensive surgeries, but couldn’t have realized that I was blighted, razed and dug into like the riverfront earth where foundations were set deeply to hold a delicate yet powerful new form.  

No, this gateway was more personal, an internal rebuilding without reference to the blueprint to make certain the new structure stayed on course.  This rebuilding was haphazard at first, and had to be created along the way.  There was no way to plan the outcome, and uncertainty about whether the whole thing might just collapse at any point along the way.  I guess that could be said about each of us and our own personal gateway experiences.  Even with the best of plans, we are all held by the hand of fate; architects of our own lives living in a state of delicate balance.

In the midst of the celebrations in St. Louis, I heard reference to DaVinci’s description of an arch as “consisting of two weaknesses which leaning one against the other make a strength.”  These words strike me as a perfect description of life in relationship.  The arch of my recovery has been propped against the equally vulnerable support of my husband and family, when the wind blows hard, and I wonder if I might just topple this time, I reach across to them, and find strength in the broken places.  The further we get from the start, the more we need each other for support.  Leaning against one another, we make a strength.  Our gateway opens to a multitude of possibilities.  We are symbols of progress.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Building up the FLOW

Part of the fun of this project has been making the time, and giving myself permission to explore different options for self-expression and expansion. As I have gotten to know my own parts in all their glory I have found a level of self-acceptance that is unprecedented.  Despite their burdens and their quirks I really love these unique elements of myself.  I admire the ways they have found to cope and to thrive especially when it might have been easier to hide away and feel sorry for ourselves.  My clients have inspired me in this, and have helped me to find the tools.

My number one tool is certainly a product of training in Internal Family Systems therapy.  Through that training I have gotten clear about how my coping skills have developed, and in response to what.  At the same time I learned not to take myself so seriously.  That life is full of risks, but that it is necessary to confront risk, if we are ever to reach our rewards.  This is it, the only life we have to work with (although my Buddhist parts remind me that we aren’t necessarily limited to only one).
So here is what I want to do; use this space to continue playing with ideas for creative recovery.  If you’d be interested in joining me, and maybe letting me know what you think of these ideas as we go along, I’d be happy to have you with me on the journey.  I will share some of the things that have been most meaningful to my own recovery, and will try to modify them where it seems appropriate to make best use of the activity in the service of Integration.  That’s the term used for identifying change at the level of the nervous system, and sorting through some of those old burdens that have blocked development and engagement in the past.  When you read the book, you will notice that it is the “I” in my acronym FLOWING; the part of the word that goes from passive to active.  (That’s what is known as a teaser.  I’ll continue to reference elements of the model, in no particular order, as we go along.)  

The first activity I will suggest is keeping a journal – nothing fancy, just a place to track your efforts and reactions as we go along.  If I have discovered anything, it is that the writing makes it real.  Otherwise it is just a thought that goes away, or if we remember it at all, it looks different in hindsight.  The act of writing is a way to engage those thoughts, to honor them (even the silly ones).  Writing is an opportunity to Witness our own development, and by Witnessing, to acknowledge, participate with and even to heal old wounds.  So let’s start there, and find out what happens next as we begin FLOWING together.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

All in Good Time

When I took a break from blogging two years ago I decided to use any available writing time to get the book together.  Yesterday I finished the edit to a point that the project is ready to hand off to a professional editor, so here I am, as promised, back at the blog.  It seems like a good time to jump back on the bike, while the wheels are still spinning.  Otherwise those wheels might get rusty, and harder to pedal.

I am in my happy place, back at the Minnesota lake cabin, where thoughts FLOW and creativity comes easy.  Tomorrow we head back to the big city and all of the routines that demand attention and energy.  Added to that will be seeking help with publishing the book so all that work isn’t in vain.  In truth, it could never be that, even if nobody reads it, although I certainly hope they (you) do.  The process was amazing; it gave me permission to explore and consider my own internal processes in a way that might have been considered self-indulgent if it hadn’t been intended as something to benefit others.  At least that’s what my old self would have thought.

Taking on the book has established a new way of thinking, but only gradually.  Perhaps turning 50 before I got serious about it has something to do with my change of attitude, but even then I continued to doubt my efforts.  After all, who would want to hear anything I have to say?  (That was the doubting parts asking)  The answer is, I don’t know, and if I don’t put it out there, I never will.   So instead of folding to the possibility of failure, I choose to try.  

That’s the amazing part, just by trying I have found myself opening up to the gifts within and around me.  I have released my doubts (mostly) and decided to go for it; to let it FLOW.  I have had the amazing experience of surviving cancer and all its nasty treatment effects.  I still fight to keep the after effect from taking over, but that’s part of the learning curve.  I talk to people everyday who are working on making their life better, despite whatever life has thrown in their way.  Inevitably, it’s those curve balls that make the whole thing move interesting and shake them out of their complacency.  Maybe not right away but eventually.  That’s why I called the book Unkind Gifts.  There is something to be gained from all that pain.  There are presents found in presence.  We just need to Open it up and see what’s inside.